Binary Festival celebrates cutting edge technology in Liverpool – it’s innovative, it’s unique, and here’s our guide to going.
There’s more to the UK tech scene than Silicon Roundabout. Yet, for many cities with burgeoning tech sectors, it feels as though they have to shout that little bit louder to make themselves heard. It’s remarkable (and a bit depressing) that this is the case; innovation doesn’t just happen in Shoreditch and there are a plethora of tech companies across the North quietly creating innovative products in everything from gaming to e-commerce.
It was this idea that formed the starting point for Liverpool’s Binary Festival, which is taking place from 24-25 May. Its aim is to “open our doors a little wider, and show what’s driving the motivation and approach of innovators across this city.” For two days the festival will be connecting innovators, inventors and creators, as well as showcasing Liverpool’s groundbreaking tech sector to a local, national and international audience.
— Binary Festival (@BinaryFest) March 11, 2016
Day One of the festival will offer a series of ‘Binary Gatherings,’ showcasing the work and talent of the creative and tech sector across the city. Sessions include Liverpool Girl Geeks explaining how to ‘Get Your Head Around Code’, ‘The Do’s & Don’ts of Crowdfunding’ with JUXDIT, and ‘An Introduction to Virtual Reality’ with Starship in the epicentre of Liverpool’s tech activity, the Baltic Triangle. Day Two, taking place at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology – a fascinating place to check out in its own right), focuses on keynotes from the worlds of technology, web, digital media and mobile. Confirmed speakers so far include poet Lemn Sissay (MBE), independent games developer and co-founder and CEO of Six to Start, Adrian Hon and founder of the UK’s largest independent gadget and technology news site Pocket-lint, Stuart Miles.
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We know that’s a lot to be getting on with, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity to explore Liverpool and the plethora of delights it has to offer. Helpfully for you, we’ve put together this handy guide of some of the city’s hot spots.
Food & Drink
Luckily for you, most of the events on day two take place in FACT, which is conveniently located at the epicentre of the city’s food scene; Bold Street. Here, you can grab a slice of pizza at American Pizza Slice, or a calzone at Crust. The Jay Rayner-rated Maray does incredible cocktails, fabulous falafel and possibly the best roasted cauliflower in the North West. If you fancy an Indian, but want something a bit more adventurous than the usual array of onion bhajis and chicken tikka masala, try a tiffin box and a portion of tongue-puckeringly tangy chaat bombs at Mowgli. For top drawer sushi, noodles and chocolate brownie spring rolls (yes, you read that right), check out Miyagi’s.
Fancy a nice brew and a sit down? Bold Street’s got that covered too. Leaf may look huge from the outside, but it’s actually one of the cosiest spaces in the city. It’s a great place to kick back with a nice cup of tea (or something stronger if you fancy it – their wine list is great). You’ll find that plenty of Scousers rave about the super cool Bold Street Coffee and with good reason – their flat whites knock the socks off any you’ll get from Costa. East Avenue Bakehouse bakes everything it sells on the premises and does a cracking afternoon tea. Make sure you don’t leave without some of their delightful macarons.
If you’re heading towards sessions like ‘Building a YouTube following for Businesses & Individuals,’ or ‘An introduction to Virtual Reality’ in Baltic Triangle, do yourself a favour and check out the exceptional Baltic Bakehouse. Here, you can treat yourself to a ’99 doughnut, or a grilled cheese sandwich that Buzzfeed declared to be one of the ‘17 best sandwiches in the UK.’
Up for a post ‘Do’s and Don’ts of Crowdfunding,’ wander? China Town is a only ten minute stroll away from the Baltic Creative Campus. Here, you’ll find The Bagelry, a bakery devoted to all things carbolicious. We recommend picking up a hand-crafted bagel smothered in a thick layer of one of their lip-smackingly good flavoured cream cheeses.
If a hard day’s conferencing has worked up a thirst, head over to The Shipping Forecast for a craft beer or three and to listen to the old recordings of the actual shipping forecast that they play in the bathroom. And, speaking of loos, you’ll find some exquisite Grade One listed ones in The Philharmonic Dining Rooms on Hope Street. It’s only two minutes away from Liverpool Science Park and is the perfect place to go for a pint to digest what you’ve just learnt at ‘The Power of LinkedIn’.
Things to do
Liverpool is a city that punches above its weight when it comes to culture. It’s a designated UNESCO heritage site with more museums and art galleries than anywhere in the UK outside London. While its city centre is small, it’s perfectly formed meaning that you can reach practically everywhere on foot. If you prefer to do your exploring on two wheels, there’s the city bike scheme which enables you to hire a bike for as short – or as long – a time as you like.
One of Liverpool’s finest bar and event spaces, Camp and Furnace, is located in the Baltic Triangle, making it handily close to a number of events taking place on Day One of the festival. There you can cosy up to a roaring fire with a pint, watch the football in a giant warehouse or even indulge in a spot of light yoga.
Head up towards the Albert Dock (a ten minute walk away from the Baltic Triangle) and you’ll find Tate Liverpool. Not only can you see (arguably) the North of England’s best collection of modern art there, you’ll also be able to experience the largest exhibition of Francis Bacon paintings ever staged in the region. Once you’re back down to earth, head towards Liverpool One for a bit of shopping. The Beauty Bazaar at Harvey Nichols is perfect place for a bit of post-festival pampering.
If your tastes veer more towards the romantic, head towards Liverpool Lime Street station, which is ten minutes away from FACT and Leaf on Bold Street. In this neighbourhood, you can take a leisurely stroll around the Walker Gallery’s Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, which highlights the city’s significant role in the movement as the ‘Victorian art capital of the North.’ Next door, you’ll find the stunning St. George’s Hall, a Grade 1 listed building and one of the country’s finest examples of neoclassical architecture. Visit the Catacombs of Liverpool’s Darkest History tour and delve into the seamy world of some of the city’s most infamous killers.
Places to stay
There’s no shortage of chain hotels in Liverpool, but you don’t have to go far to find something a bit more stylish than a Travelodge. Luxury hotels Hope Street Hotel and the Marriott Liverpool are both offering a limited number of special rate rooms for festival delegates. Hope Street has bed and breakfast rooms for £100 for attendees: just quote ‘564285’ when making your booking. Meanwhile the Marriott is offering rooms for £99, including full use of the spa and gym. To book, please contact Helen Jones on 0151 476 8000 and mention the Binary Festival.
Also very handy for Binary festival action are the Hampton Hilton, which is based in the Baltic Triangle, while Epic Apart Hotel on Seel Street offers serviced apartments. Also situated on Seel Street (this is the street behind FACT, making it a very handy place to stay) The Nadler is chic, surprisingly affordable and situated right in the heart of the city, meaning you’re merely a hop, skip and jump away from everything you need. If you fancy spending the night immersed in a bit of Liverpudlian history, pay a visit to 30 James Street, ‘Home of the Titanic’. There you’ll find rooms themed around the infamous liner’s opulent first class cabins (only without any pesky icebergs.) It’s slightly further away, but all of the festival’s venues can be reached within fifteen minutes. Plus, you’re in sight of Pier Head and ‘the three graces’, one of Liverpool’s most impressive architectural gems.
On the Titanic theme, you’ll find the city’s newest luxury hotel, the Titanic Hotel, situated on Stanley Dock, a fifteen-minute walk from central Liverpool. While the rooms are as elegant as you’d expect from a hotel named after one of the swankiest ships in history, we also like the sound of their spa: just the thing you need after a long day of conferencing, eating and exploring. It’s not as central as our other choices, so you may need to hop into a taxi to get to sessions held in Liverpool Science Park or the Baltic Triangle.
This article has been written as part of a special media partnership between The Double Negative arts magazine, Creative Tourist culture and travel site and Binary Festival Blog. See the Festival on 24 and 25 May 2016 in Liverpool, UK.